Big Tech negotiation
by Josh Doody
The key question to ask about a Facebook job offer is “How much can this offer be improved through negotiation?” In my experience coaching software developers through Facebook salary negotiations, the answer varies from “somewhat” to “a whole lot”.
The main driver for the difference seems to be how narrow the engineer’s specialty is, and how well that specialty aligns with Facebook’s core competencies.
For example, Facebook needs lots and lots of experienced software developers, and the supply of generalist software developers available to hire is pretty strong. So Facebook will offer competitive salaries with some room to negotiate to get quality software developers in the door.
By contrast, machine learning experts and data scientists are key to Facebook’s ability to dominate search and other aspects of its business and there are fewer of those experts available. So Facebook makes very, very strong offers to machine learning experts and data scientists and has lots of room to negotiate those offers to get the right candidates.
The bottom line is that if you have a job offer from Facebook in a technical role, you likely have room to negotiate, and may have substantial negotiation leverage depending on your specialty.
Once you actually get through the Facebook interview gauntlet, you may receive a job offer. Let’s look at an example to see what you can expect.
Facebook’s offers are pretty standard:
They may also include other components like an annual bonus and an annual stock refresher.
They will often roll all these numbers together to describe the offer in terms of “Total Compensation”, which may seem like a big number.
Here’s an example taken from a modified version of a real Facebook job offer from one of my clients (all numbers are $1,000s). This offer is for $200,000 base salary, $400,000 total equity (vesting over four years), and a $50,000 sign-on bonus:
|Component||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Total|
Let’s look a little closer at the main components of a Facebook job offer.
As with most job offers, this is the stable, predictable component that you can use to pay your mortgage or car payment. You can’t know what company performance might look like in the future, so it’s hard to estimate how much of a bonus you’ll get or what your RSUs will be worth when they vest.
Facebook’s base salary offers tend to be pretty competitive with other big tech firms. If you’re wondering whether the salary you’re offered is competitive, blind and levels.fyi are good places to start.
In my experience, Facebook will move on base salary a moderate amount, meaning that they’re not totally rigid on base salary, but that they typically don’t make big moves on base salary. They’re generally more flexible when you have not disclosed salary history or expectations.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for more base salary, but it means that request may result a modest move in base salary coupled with other more aggressive moves that are not related to salary.
The equity component of a Facebook job offer can range from “not very much” to “wowzers, that’s a lot of equity!” depending on the role.
For Facebook (and most of the other big public tech companies) I tend to model equity as more or less fungible with base salary since the value of that equity is public and the company fundamentals appear to be pretty strong.
The difference, of course, is that there’s a vesting schedule and you’re taking some level of market risk by counting on equity.
But for a company like Facebook, the market risk for equity is very similar to the market risk for your base salary. (If things suddenly get very bad for Facebook, their stock would probably drop, but the bigger problem could be that your job might be in jeopardy).
Potentially very flexible. This is their most used bargaining chip. Depending on the candidate, position, and other factors, they may be willing to improve the equity component of the offer significantly during the negotiation.
Some of my clients have more than doubled their equity during their negotiation. Sometimes the equity component of the offer will be larger than the base salary component when we finish negotiating.
This is one reason the base salary component of their offers tends to be merely “competitive”—they have more flexibility on equity and will often use this as their carrot to entice exceptional candidates to join the company.
Even if there’s not a sign-on bonus included with your initial offer, there may be one available. Sign-on bonuses, like equity, can range from a nice little amount into six figures.
I like to think of the sign-on bonus as a way to help bridge the gap between your first paycheck and your first RSU vesting date.
Moderately flexible. They will often use this as a sweetener to close the deal. Five-figure improvements in sign-on bonus are pretty common. I recommend focusing on base salary and equity before negotiating sign-on bonus, but asking for a sign-on bonus to finalize your negotiation will often work well.
The salary negotiation with Facebook will begin earlier than you might expect.
Your Facebook recruiter will ask for your salary history, or at least your current salary if it’s legal where they are. Do not tell them your current salary. If you do, the base salary component of your job offer will probably be slightly above your current salary and it will be challenging to negotiate a substantial increase once they make your job offer.
They will also usually ask for your salary expectations. That request will sound something like this:
So what were you hoping for in terms of compensation if you come aboard here at Facebook?
Do not tell them your salary expectations because you will essentially be guessing what they might pay someone with your skillset and experience to do the job they need done.
While they might have a good idea of the value of that job to Facebook’s business, you would only be guessing. You will practically always guess wrong and cost yourself money later on. So just don’t guess.
Facebook will hold on tight to these numbers and it can be very, very challenging to get them to move once they know what they are aiming for. So avoid sharing that information if at all possible.
Learn more What to say when asked for your salary expectations during an interview
Although Facebook is typically only moderately flexible on base salary, I prefer to begin by negotiating base salary to see how flexible they are in the other components. By pushing on base salary—even knowing they aren’t very flexible—we give them an opportunity to show where they are the most flexible.
They will often respond to a request for a higher base salary by moving moderately or not at all on base salary, while suggesting a significantly better equity or sign-on bonus component.
Once they reveal where they’re flexible and how flexible they are, you can use that information to focus the negotiation on the most flexible components to maximize your offer.
Learn more More salary negotiation strategy and tactics...
I offer full-service 1-on-1 support to help Senior Software Engineers and Engineering Managers negotiate the best offer possible and with more confidence and less stress.
Hsere are examples of results I've helped others achieve in their negotiations with Facebook.
I hired Josh because I didn’t want to leave money on the table. Through working with him, I learned about salary ranges and levels and how to write a salary negotiation email.
I appreciated Josh’s turnaround time, his clarity of explanations and justification for what we asked for in the negotiation, and the honesty of his services.
I negotiated a $10k sign-on bonus and $7k more in base salary. I feel it adds more credibility to my own worth — and I know I shouldn’t use a number to justify my self-worth, but it helps :)
I’d recommend Josh’s salary negotiation coaching because it’s effective and he delivers results in an honest way. It was a pleasure working with him and I hope to do so again!
My lack of experience negotiating and being too biased by my own emotions led me to Josh.
I was negotiating more than one offer and I was overwhelmed when one of the recruiters used high-pressure tactics. In that moment, you can’t believe how happy I was that Josh was there to back me up. He also helped me learn how to be concise and direct, which helped me negotiate better.
I negotiated an offer with Facebook with an additional $225,000 in equity, meaning I can save more money.
Working with Josh went super well! People like Josh are the ones that leave a trace on this world and he certainly left a trace in my life. I hope our paths cross again.
I'm Josh Doody, a professional salary negotiation coach who helps High Earners negotiate their job offers. On average, High Earners improve their first-year compensation by $47,273 with my help.
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